Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Review

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens is one of the sharpest, highest-performing lenses ever produced. You will love the ultra-wide f/1.8 sharpness and background blur this lens produces, and it is especially adept at creating standout portraits, including in low-light scenarios.

  • Incredible image quality
  • Outstanding portrait, wedding, and event lens
  • Optimal for indoor sports
  • Ultra-wide aperture with impressive background blur
  • Fast, silent, and smooth Nano USM AF
  • Quiet optical image stabilization
  • 0.25x maximum magnification
  • Professional grade
  • Lens Function buttons
  • Mid-sized
  • Expensive
  • Moderately heavy
In-Depth Review

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens is an incredible lens — it is one of the sharpest, highest-performing lenses ever produced.

Twenty-six years before the RF 135 F1.8 introduction, the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens hit the streets, and it was a favorite lens of many — for decades. The long focal length, wide aperture, fast AF, and great image quality, including the strong background blur, made this a much-loved lens. However, the increased imaging sensor resolution we are enjoying is showing this lens its age.

For those anticipating an ultra-high-quality professional-grade 135mm ultra-wide-aperture L-series lens to arrive in the Canon RF lineup, this lens is the lens you were dreaming of. It delivers incredible image quality, opens the aperture by 1/3-stop, and adds a high-performing image stabilization system that coordinates with IBIS for up to 8.0 stops of assistance (and a still-impressive 5.5-stops without IBIS). The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Len is an outstanding lens in all regards, and if you can make the 135mm focal length work for your needs (it suits many), you will want this lens in your kit.

Looking for a portrait lens that delivers differentiating high-quality results? Do you ever photograph sports or events? Does remarkable low-light performance sound attractive? Do you ever prefer your background to be completely blurred away, making the subject stand out? Do you need to get close to your subjects, showing them large in the frame? Is accurate and fast autofocus of value? Do you enjoy being impressed when reviewing your images, and better yet, enjoy impressing those you are serving?

If any or all those questions can be answered affirmably, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens probably has your name on it.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Top View

Focal Length

Back to Top

Focal length is the top consideration for lens selection. Focal length drives subject distance choices, which determine perspective.

While a zoom lens provides a broad range of focal lengths, a prime lens has only one. This limitation means that focal length selection for a prime lens is far more critical than for a zoom lens. So, what is the 135mm focal length good for?

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Portrait Sample Picture

Portraits are a standout 135mm focal length use. This telephoto focal length, on either a full frame or APS-C crop sensor format camera, pushes the focus distance far enough to provide an ideal portrait perspective. Even when used for tightly framed head-shot portraits, 135mm retains a pleasing look

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Mariachi Singer Sample Picture

This f/1.8, 1/100, ISO 4000 image was captured in a dark venue.

Canon EOS R8 Environmental Portrait

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens produces jaw-dropping portraits.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Baby Portrait

The "portrait photography" designation is a broad one that covers a wide variety of potential still and video subject framing (from entire body to head-shots) and a wide variety of potential venues (from indoors to outdoors). Portrait subjects can range from children to seniors and individuals to groups (though large groups require a rather long working distance with a 135mm lens). Basically, whenever people are present, this lens has uses. Think engagements, weddings, parties, events, families and small groups (when adequate working space is available), senior adults, fashion, stage performances, lifestyle ... all are great uses for the 135mm focal length.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens BMX Stunt Sample Picture

People participate in sports, and this lens is a great sports photography option.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens BMX Racing Sample Picture

That's pro BMX racer Daleny Vaughn launching over the course as seen by the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Sprinting Sample Picture

With an ultra-wide aperture, this lens is an especially great choice for capturing indoor sports.

Practically every lens can be used for landscapes, and the RF 135mm F1.8 is a great option for this use (if this lens's size and weight for a single focal length work for the scenario). While the 135mm focal length may not seem like a staple in a landscape photography kit, it is useful to have available for a more-compressed landscape look. And, the incredible image quality this lens delivers means that even the tiniest landscape details are tack sharp, including the extreme corners. Remember that a telephoto lens can fill the frame with color from even mediocre sunsets.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Poppy Sample Picture

Pets and other tame animals and large more-distant animals can make good 135mm subjects.

A 135mm lens can be used for many other purposes including product and commercial photography, and general studio applications. With a strong maximum magnification spec, this lens is great for small through large product photography.

A mid-telephoto focal length lens, even with an ultra-wide aperture, remains relatively compact and the RF 135's black color blends into the scenery, making this lens an ideal choice for street photography.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Poppy Bud Sample Picture

Videographers will find many uses for this lens, including documentaries and interviews.

A focal length comparison clarifies a lens's angle of view.

70-200mm Focal Length Range Example

Those using the 135mm focal length on an ASP-C/1.6x FOVCF sensor format camera will have a narrower angle of view to work with, one equivalent to a 216mm focal length used on a full-frame camera. While this angle of view is similarly useful, the uses push toward tighter portraits, sports, smaller products, more-compressed landscapes, and away from more-general purpose uses.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

Back to Top

Canon makes some impressive zoom lenses that cover the 135mm focal length. Thus, a prime lens offering only a single focal length must have an advantage selecting it over the zoom lens, and the max aperture opening is often a prime lens advantage. At review time, no 135mm mirrorless lens opens wider than this one.

The f/1.8 in the name refers to the maximum aperture, the ratio of the focal length to the entrance pupil diameter, available in this lens. The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can deliver to the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6) increases or decreases the amount of light by a factor of 2x (a substantial amount). F/1.8 is 1/3-stop wider than f/2, and f/1.8 at 135mm is a massive opening — there is a lot of open space inside this lens.

The additional light provided by wider aperture lenses permits sharp images of subjects in motion, with the camera handheld in lower light levels and with lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition, increasing the aperture opening provides a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). Often critical is the improved low-light AF performance availed by a wide-aperture lens.

A wide aperture's disadvantages are related to (often significantly) increased lens element size, including larger overall size, heavier weight, and higher cost. This ultra-wide-aperture lens features those disadvantages, though it is not excessive in any.

Back to the blur — the wide f/1.8 aperture combined with the 135mm focal length used at a close focus distance will turn even the most distracting background into a blur of colors. The shallow DOF provides a three-dimensional look and can eliminate even the ugliest background distractions. The blurred background effect draws the viewer's attention to the subject, and this look will make your imagery stand out from the crowd.

The extremely shallow depth of field capability adds artistic-style imaging to this lens's strong capabilities list.

Here is an aperture comparison example.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Aperture Comparison Example

The huge yellow dock cleat is not especially close to the lens, but the 135mm and f/1.8 combination still takes the boat considerably out of focus, even in this small image size. What advantage does f/1.8 provide over your longest 135mm lens's max aperture? The difference between f/1.8 and f/2.8 is obvious.

This example illustrates the maximum blur this lens can create:

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Maximum Blur Example

I would not complain if this lens had only f/1.8 available.

If shooting in direct sunlight at f/1.8, expect to need a 1/8000 sec or faster shutter speed at ISO 100 to avoid over-exposure. Positive is that there is little action that a 1/8000 sec shutter speed cannot stop, but if the subject has bright or reflective colors, even 1/8000 might not be fast enough to avoid blown highlights. Some cameras have an extended ISO setting as low as 50 that can optionally be used in this situation, though the dynamic range is usually impacted. Optimal is to use a camera offering shutter speeds faster than 1/8000. Using a neutral density filter is another good solution to retaining the use of f/1.8 under direct sunlight when the shutter limitation is exceeded. Stopping down (narrowing) the aperture is always an option for preventing over-exposure, though stopping down negates the value of the wide f/1.8 aperture and loses the subject-isolating shallow depth of field.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View

Image Stabilization

Back to Top

The longer the focal length, the larger subject details are rendered (when captured at the same distance), and the more still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the cause of motion blur. While this lens's f/1.8 aperture makes it handholdable in low light, the mid-telephoto 135mm focal length provides some blur-inviting magnification, and image stabilization is an extremely valuable feature of this lens.

When the subject is not moving or not moving much, this lens's image stabilization system, rated for 5.5 stops of assistance, can make a huge difference in handheld image quality. Use this lens on an EOS R-series camera featuring In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), and that rating jumps to a crazy 8.0 stops. Communications between the lens and the camera via the RF mount makes these impressive ratings possible. The 8.0 stop ISO noise difference referenced by this rating is dramatic.

I can never achieve the IS ratings, but IS makes a huge difference in my image quality. With this lens on a somewhat shaky day, nearly all of my 1/13 second images were sharp, and 1/6 second exposures still delivered a worth-trying keeper rate when I stopped testing.

IS is useful for stabilizing the viewfinder, aiding in optimal composition, and it is useful for stabilizing movie recording.

The image stabilization system in the RF 135 performs superbly. IS makes a faint "hmmm" (even when switched off), though it is audible only from an ear next to the lens. Canon's IS systems have long been well-behaved, meaning that the viewfinder image does not jump and I do not find myself fighting against this IS system while recomposing or tracking fast action.

The RF 135's ultra-wide aperture combined with an impressive high-performing IS system makes this lens a superb option for low-light events, including weddings.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View

Image Quality

Back to Top

To those familiar with the 135mm L lens leagacy, just mentioning an RF 135mm F1.8 L lens sets the image quality expectation bar extremely high, and Canon hit a home run with this one. The RF 135 F1.8 is one of the highest performing lenses I've ever used, and the exceptional lack of flaws makes it a dream to test.

Let's start with the MTF charts. Here is the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM and Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens MTF comparison.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM and Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens MTF Comparison

The black lines indicate contrast, and the blue lines show resolution. The solid lines are sagittal, and the dashed lines are meridional. The higher, the better, and that comparison tells a story.

The RF lens's performance is substantially improved.

You buy this lens to use at f/1.8, and the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens is exceptionally sharp across the entire full-frame image circle at that wide-open aperture. There is little sharpness advantage to stopping down the aperture, and none is needed. This lens is practically unsurpassed in this regard, it is among the sharpest we've ever tested.

Here is a series of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured using a Canon EOS R5 with RAW files processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to 1 on a 0-10 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

f/1.8 | f/2.0 | f/2.8   f/1.8 | f/2.0 | f/2.8   f/1.8

Be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus for your evaluations, and note that heat waves and water reflections are impacting these images. Still, this lens's performance is impressive.

Here is a 100% f/1.8 crop from a Lightroom-processed image.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Sharp Eye Crop Example

Next, we'll look at a series of comparisons showing 100% resolution extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. This lens produces wide-open corner image quality that few others can match.

This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA).

A lens is expected to show peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings when used on a camera that utilizes its entire image circle. The just-over 2 stops of corner shading at f/1.8 is noticeable, but not especially strong.

The corner shading drops to about 2 stops at f/2, 1 stop at f/2.8, and by f/8, a negligible 0.2 stops remain.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the about one-stop of corner shading showing at f/1.8 may be slightly visible in select images, primarily those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing, with increased noise in the brightened areas the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii), with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is still better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Here is a 100% crop from the extreme upper-left corner of the frame.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Test Result

You are looking at a nearly perfect test result. Only black and white colors should be present in this sample, and few lenses reach the performance shown here.

For another example, here is a 100% crop from near the lower left corner of the frame (not the focused-on subject).

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There is no color blur on the left side of this rowing hull.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration, along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

The lack of color separation shown in these test images shows another impressive performance from the RF 135 L lens. Trust this lens to avoid adding colors to the out-of-focus portions of an image, including when a white wedding dress is the subject.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare and ghosting effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.

On this lens, Canon utilizes Air Sphere Coating (ASC) to reduce flare and ghosting and improve image clarity. However, the relatively high 17-element count increases the challenge in this regard. While this lens does show some flare effects, primarily at narrow apertures, in the site's standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test, the amount is relatively low and noticeably lower than the EF 135mm F2 L Lens's result.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Unfortunately, removal is sometimes challenging; in some cases, flare effects can destroy image quality. Thus, high flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-left corner of an EOS R5 image captured at f/1.8.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Coma

The brightest stars show some minor warping, but from a relative standpoint, this result is good, and the stars are sharp.

This lens has slight pincushion distortion, an amount low enough to seldom be an issue. Here is a worst-case scenario featuring straight lines running parallel to the edge of the frame.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Distortion Example

Most modern lenses have correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, geometric distortion correction requires stretching which is detrimental to image quality.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the strongest blur a lens can create, and telephoto lenses are inherently advantaged in this regard. However, due to the infinite number of variables present in available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging.

You can expect a pleasing background blur quality from this lens. Here are f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Bokeh Example

The first example shows defocused highlights filled quite smoothly. Stopped all the way down to f/11 results in flattened highlight edges, but the shape is even, showing the desired performance from the diaphragm.

The second example shows a full image reduced in size.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round. That is the shape we're looking at here.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting diminishes, making the corner shapes rounder. This downsized full f/1.8 image shows that shape truncation in the periphery.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

When the diaphragm is narrowed, point light sources show a sunstar effect (diffraction spikes). Each blade is responsible, via diffraction, for creating two points of this effect. If the blades are arranged opposite of each other (an even blade count), the number of points on the stars will equal the blade count as two blades share in creating a single pair of points. The blades of an odd blade count diaphragm are not opposing, and the result is that each blade creates its own two points.

This lens's nine-blade count times two points mean 18-point star effects. Wide aperture lenses usually produce the strongest sunstar effects and this lens's 9-blade aperture produces beautiful 18-point stars.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The example above was captured at f/16.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Design

The design of this lens, including 3 UD elements, is illustrated above.

From an image quality perspective, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens delivers impressively. There are few lenses that rival the outstanding image quality produced by this one.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Side View


Back to Top

With the shallow depth of field the 135mm focal length and f/1.8 aperture combination can create, autofocus accuracy is critical for realizing this lens's image quality potential, and the RF 135mm F1.8 L IS Lens meets that demand with Canon's excellent Nano USM AF system. This lens consistently focuses accurately.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Nano USM Focus Drive System

The AF speed is fast, with a faint "shhhh" and light click sounds sometimes audible in a quiet environment. The RF 135's low-light AF capabilities are impressive.

This is an internally focused lens.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Mariachi Performer Sample Picture

Nano USM lenses focus smoothly, making video focus distance transitions easy on the viewer's eyes. Even the lens's aperture changes are quiet and smooth.

The rubber-coated focus ring is significant in size (1.1", 28mm), yet adequate fixed grip areas remain available. This ring imparts focus smoothly, ideal for critical focusing, rotates smoothly, and is lightly damped (modestly tighter would be better).

This lens has a variable rate of focus distance change based on the manual focus ring's rotation speed. Turned slowly, the focus ring rotates 620° through a full-extent focus distance adjustment, and 250° does the same with a quick turn. With the R-series cameras, a linear adjustment rate can be configured, disabling the variable rate, which is usually my preference.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot Drive Mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing after One Shot AF is disabled in the camera's menu. The lens's switch must be in the "MF" position and the camera meter must be on/awake for conventional manual focusing to be available.

It is normal for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This effect is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus (without movement to camouflage the effect), and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

This lens significantly changes the subject size through a full-extent focus distance adjustment.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Focus Breathing Example

Far | Close   Far | Close

The RF 135 has an AF/MF switch, a favorite feature that is becoming less standard on lenses today.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Side View with Hood

Unusual for a smaller Canon lens is the inclusion of buttons. By default, the pair of buttons provide the AF stop function, locking focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. However, they can be programmed for numerous other functions.

Here is a list of functions assignable to the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens buttons:

  • AF Stop (default)
  • Metering/AF start
  • Switch to saved AF function
  • One-Shot AF / Servo AF
  • Eye detection
  • Switch to saved AF frame
  • AE lock
  • AE lock (hold)
  • Exposure compensation (turn main electronic dial while button is depressed)
  • Activate IS function
  • Aperture
  • Many more ...

While the RF 135 will not be confused with a macro lens, the 27.6" (700mm) minimum focus distance generates a 0.26x maximum magnification spec. This number is high relative to lenses in general and best in class among the 135mm prime lenses shown below.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens15.7(400)0.19x
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens33.5(850)0.12x
Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens27.6(700)0.26x
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens35.4(900)0.19x
Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens34.4(875)0.20x
Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens27.6(700)0.25x
Zeiss 135mm f/2 Milvus Lens31.5(800)0.25x
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens27.6(700)0.23x

Close focusing is a big improvement over the EF predecessor, and wedding photographers responsible for capturing their events' details are taking notice of this capability.

A subject measuring approximately 5.1 x 3.4" (130 x 87mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum MF distance.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Maximum Magnification Example

The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Poppy Flower Sample Picture

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to decrease and increase the minimum focus distance and maximum magnification numbers modestly. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing capability. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and function normally. As of review time, Canon does not offer RF mount-compatible extension tubes, but third-party options are available.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders. Adequate room for extenders is not provided inside the mount end of the lens.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens on Tripod

Design & Features

Back to Top

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens shares a clean, modern design similar to that of its closest siblings, the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L and Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L Lenses. Designated in name as an L-series lens, further indicated by the red ring, we know that the RF 135 F1.8 L is built for professional duty use.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Product Images

MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated   Compare »

With smooth external dimensions, tight tolerance between parts, and a fixed size, the Canon RF 135 L is comfortable to hold and use.

This lens features a quality plastic external construction, and the optics density required by the 135mm focal length combined with an f/1.8 aperture gives this lens a solid feel (and an especially beautiful front appearance).

RF lenses gain an additional ring, the knurled "Control Ring". This ring is configurable for fast access to camera settings, including aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, AF area, and more. Note that the control ring is clicked by default (64 clicks per rotation), and this ring's clicks will be audible in camera-based audio recordings. Canon offers a click-stop removal service for this ring (at a cost). The focus ring is separated from the control ring by a small amount of space, and, along with a texture difference, it is easy to tactilely find the ring you want.

The AF/MF and IS switches are flush mounted directly on the barrel, with just enough raised surface area available for easy use.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Mount

This lens is weather-sealed but not waterproof. Still, weather sealing could save the day, shoot, trip, etc.

Like most other recent L lenses, the RF 135 F1.8 L features fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens elements to avoid dust adhesion and to make cleaning easier. This is one of those features that goes unnoticed until something happens in the field.

Increased weight is always a penalty for an increased aperture opening. This lens has the latter, and therefore, it has the former. However, while you will know that you are carrying this lens, the weight is moderate and easily manageable.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 4.3(89.8 x 108.0)772018
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens42.2(1196)4.1 x 4.6(104.1 x 116.8)822019
Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens33.0(935)3.5 x 5.1(89.2 x 130.3)822022
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens26.5(750)3.3 x 4.4(83.0 x 112.0)721996
Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens39.9(1130)3.6 x 4.5(91.4 x 114.9)822017
Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 5.0(89.5 x 127.0)822019
Zeiss 135mm f/2 Milvus Lens39.6(1123)3.5 x 4.5(89.7 x 115)772016
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens37.8(1070)3.5 x 5.7(89.9 x 146.0)772019

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens
Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens
Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens to other lenses.

This lens utilizes 82mm threaded filters. While 82mm filters are relatively large and expensive, many lenses use 82mm filters, making effects filter sharing convenient and without step-up filter adapter rings. A standard-thickness circular polarizer filter will not likely increase peripheral shading, but your other lenses may need a slim model. Thus, a thin version, such as the Breakthrough Photography X4, is recommended for optimal use on all lenses in the kit.

A tripod ring is not available for the RF 135. With the size and weight of this lens, a strong tripod head is needed to avoid sag after tightening the head. I used an RRS BH-40 Ball Head during the initial review, and the larger RRSBH-55 Ball Head is better still.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View with Hood

The Canon ET-88B Lens Hood, the same hood used by the Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM Lens, is included in the box. The round, semi-rigid plastic ET-88B lens hood is huge, providing significant light and impact protection to the lens. The interior of the hood has molded ribs to avoid reflections, and the round shape facilitates standing the lens on a flat surface (when conditions invite and permit such).

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Case LP1319

Canon includes a soft-sided drawstring pouch in the box. The pouch offers protective padding on the bottom, but the sides are unpadded, offering light scratch and dust protection.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Cap

The caps are always included.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Front View on Camera

Price, Value, Compatibility

Back to Top

Great lenses are rarely cheap, and this one does not break that rule. While not crazy-high-priced, the RF 135 F1.8 L is priced high enough to be out of reach for most casual photographers. Professionals will appreciate that this lens can differentiate their work, and most of them will not hesitate at this expenditure.

As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L USM Lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R series cameras. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.

One of the reviewed Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lenses was sourced online/retail (the image quality test results were from this lens), and the others were on loan from Canon USA.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Angle Close View


Back to Top

The predecessor lens is always the low-hanging fruit when selecting comparison options. In this case, the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens is that lens, and it was a long-time favorite of many. Here is the visual comparison.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Compared to the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens

You saw this coming. The image quality comparison shows the 26-year-younger RF lens is considerably sharper at f/1.8 than the EF lens at f/2. The RF lens holds that advantage into narrower apertures, but most people buy this lens to use wide-open. The RF lens shows slightly better flare control, especially at mid-aperture openings, despite having 17 lens elements vs. 10.

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens comparison shows the EF lens is smaller and weighs 6.5 oz (185g) less. The smaller lens uses smaller filters, 72mm vs. 82mm. The RF lens has 9 aperture blades vs. 8 and has a 0.26x maximum magnification spec vs. 0.19x. It also features a 5.5 stop rated (8.0 stops coordinated) image stabilizer and has Nano USM driven AF, with significantly improved video AF performance over the EF lens's Ring USM. The EF lens is compatible with extenders and has a focus limit switch.

The EF lens is discontinued and a good value used, but the RF lens far outperforms its predecessor.

Let's compare the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens to the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens. This Sony lens is a great performer and my current choice for Sony camera image quality testing.

In the image quality comparison, the Canon lens has a slight advantage. The Sony lens has a slight advantage in the flare test comparison. The Canon lens shows slightly less color blur.

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens comparison shows the two lens's weights and measurements undifferentiating. The Sony lens has 11 aperture blades vs. 9, showing slightly rounder out-of-focus highlights when stopped down, and it has a focus limiter. I slightly prefer the Canon lens's diffraction spikes.

The Canon lens has a 5.5 stop rated (8.0 stops coordinated) image stabilizer vs. the Sony lens relying on IBIS. In semi-formal testing, the Canon lens created 7 sharp images out of 20 at 1/6 second exposures on an R5 body compared the Sony lens on an a1 doing the same at 1/25 seconds.

The Sony lens is $1.00 less expensive at review time. Both lenses are outstanding, and most decisions between them will be decided by the camera kit brand.

The Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens is adaptable to the RF mount. The Canon lens is slightly sharper in the image quality comparison at f/1.8, primarily in the center of the frame. The Canon lens has less color blur.

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the Sigma lens weighing 6.9 oz (195g) more and measuring slightly wider and shorter — without the adapter size and weight factored in. The Canon lens has AF stop buttons, and the Sigma lens has a focus limiter switch. The Canon lens has image stabilization and a 0.26x maximum magnification spec vs. 0.20x. The Sigma lens has a considerably lower price tag.

What about the Zeiss 135mm f/2 Milvus Lens? It is also adaptable to the RF mount. The Canon lens is slightly sharper in the wide-open aperture image quality comparison, primarily in the center of the frame. The Zeiss lens has less slightly less barrel distortion and slightly more color blur.

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Zeiss 135mm f/2 Milvus Lens comparison shows the Zeiss lens, featuring all metal construction, weighing 6.6 oz (188g) more and measuring slightly shorter — without the adapter size and weight factored in. The Zeiss lens has 77mm filter threads vs. 82mm. The Canon lens has AF stop buttons — and AF, but the Zeiss lens has depth of field marks and repeatable MF ring settings. The Canon lens has image stabilization, Lens Function buttons, and a modestly lower price.

Use the site's tools to create additional comparisons.

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens Top View with Hood


Back to Top

Though not inexpensive, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens leaves little to want.

Of primary importance is that this lens delivers outstanding image quality, including an impressive background blur. In addition, the f/1.8 aperture and image stabilization keep the ISO settings low, reducing noise, and the fast, accurate AF system ensures the ultimate image quality is achieved.

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens is a superb choice for portraits, stage events, weddings and other low-light events, sports, photojournalism, street, products, and many more subjects.

This lens is positioned to be a photographer's favorite for the next 26 years.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

Can you help right now?

This site and my family depend on your support.
Please share this page!

Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!

Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens
Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens
Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!
Can we stay in touch?Free Newsletter
Bryan Recommends Buying It Here
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made at WEX Photographic after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at Camera Canada after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made at KEH after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at MPB after using this link provides support for this site
Terms of Use, Privacy  |  © 2024 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!